Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Villagers refuse polio drops in Charsadda‎

Territorial dispute: Villagers refuse polio drops in Charsadda‎

Japan must think about consequences before provoking China

The Diaoyu Islands dispute between China and Japan has continued to heat up. About 50 Japanese nationals and local parliamentarians participated in a so-called memorial ceremony in Ishigaki, Okinawa Prefecture organized by a parliamentary union for "defending Japanese territory" on Aug. 18. More than 150 Japanese ring-wing activists, including parliamentarians from the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), arrived at the Diaoyu Islands waters onboard 21 vessels on the morning of Aug. 19, and 10 of them landed on the islands. The DPJ's policy chief Seiji Maehara said on Aug. 19 that Japanese activists' landing on the Diaoyu Islands was triggered by previous actions of Hong Kong activists, and thus was entirely understandable. Maehara's statement is utter connivance and support for the ring-wing activists' landing which has further damaged China-Japan relations. Given continued escalation of the Diaoyu Islands dispute in recent months, we find it necessary to remind the Japanese government that provoking China over the Diaoyu Islands will enrage not only the Chinese mainland. The Japanese government must be aware that provocations against China over the Diaoyu Islands will accelerate the collapse of the DPJ plagued by internal chaos, instead of consolidating its political power. The Japanese government must be aware that provocations against China over the Diaoyu Islands will not only damage China-Japan relations, but hurt the feelings of the Chinese people. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between China and Japan, and we cannot help but think of Kakuei Tanaka, Masayoshi Ohira, and other Japanese statesmen who risked their political careers to promote the normalization of diplomatic relations between the two countries. They have thus gone down in history as great statesmen. At present, certain Japanese politicians are risking their political careers to damage China-Japan relations. They will be swept into the dustbin of history as they are moving against the trend of the times. The best solution to the Diaoyu Islands dispute is sincere dialogue at the negotiating table. The earlier the two countries return to the negotiating table, the sooner their relations will go back to normal.

Iranians overjoyed by hosting NAM summit

"Welcome to Tehran for the 16th NAM summit ..." Banners and posters are hanging along the streets across Iran's capital of Tehran, reminding passers-by that a big event is going on in one of the largest cities in the region. Iran will host the 16th summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) this week. With local TV channel circulating the developments of this event, which is divided into three stages -- senior officials meeting on Aug. 26-27, ministerial level meeting on Aug. 28-29, and the summit from Aug. 30 to 31 -- even teenagers playing in the streets of Tehran know something special is taking place here. The Iranian government has geared up security in the capital, especially around the convention centers and hotels where foreign guests stay, with the number of checkpoints increased and policemen patrolling along major roads in downtown area. But for most residents in Tehran, the summit is something which makes them proud and overjoyed. A 61-year-old retired man even mistook the crowds around the Tehran Grand Hotel, where many foreign journalists covering the summit are staying, for the celebration of a big "holiday." "There is a five-day holiday here, I think," the man said merrily to Xinhua, pointing to a grocery run by his younger friend. "But don't worry, all shops will still be opening. You can buy things as you want." he said. Realizing that most representatives to this summit come from developing countries, some Iranian citizens said they hoped the meeting would help resolve or alleviate major problems the world is facing, such as the Syrian crisis and the Iranian nuclear issue.Referring to the Iranian nuclear issue, a middle-aged man who wishes to remain anonymous said, "I hope they work out a solution and the situation gets better. With the sanctions imposed by the West, ordinary people felt the economic pressure on their daily lives." For example, one U.S. dollar could exchange for 10,600 Iran rials in January 2011, but now, merely a year and a half later, the same amount of dollar is exchanged for 21,750 rials as of Monday morning, reflecting a sharp depreciation of the Iranian currency. Although over 100 countries and regions have sent delegates to Tehran to discuss major world issues, Iranian intellectuals still worry to what degree the NAM, a child of the Cold War, could weigh in the Syrian crisis and other difficult situations facing the world. "I hope the summit would bear some positive results. Otherwise, it's too bad," said another middle-aged citizen. While many foreign guests are gathering in Tehran, hospitable Tehran residents are offering kind help to newcomers. But an interesting phenomenon is that major timezone websites across the globe even do not know it is now daylight saving time in Tehran, a mysterious city, so that they mistakenly calculate local time here based on GMT+3.5 rather than GMT+4.5. "I wish you could stay in Iran a little more. As an architect, I could show you around Tehran, a historic center," said a female college professor.

Morsi: No military intervention in Syria crisis

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi says the Syrian people should decide on their own destiny. He has called for the world to act, but he expressed his opposition of foreign military intervention. Morsi made the statement shortly before travelling to China and Iran. Mohamed Morsi, Egyptian President said, "We are against any military action on Syrian soil, in any shape or form. We want to intervene using peaceful, effective and efficient means to enable the Syrian people to achieve their goals from this revolution and this movement for freedom."

India rejects military solution for Syria

India has strongly opposed foreign military intervention in Syria, stressing the need for a peaceful solution to the crisis in the Arab state with the assistance of the international community. Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai said on Saturday that his country supports the six-point peace plan proposed by the outgoing UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan for a peaceful settlement of the Syrian crisis, Syria’s state-run SANA news agency reported. He also expressed New Delhi’s serious concern over the ongoing violence in Syria. Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has warned the West not to take unilateral action on Syria, saying that Russia and China agree that measures violating international law and the United Nations charter are impermissible. Russia and China base their diplomatic cooperation on "the need to strictly adhere to the norms of international law and the principles contained in the UN Charter, and not to allow their violation," Lavrov said at a meeting with Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo on August 21. Moscow and Beijing have opposed military intervention in Syria, and have vetoed three UN Security Council resolutions backed by Western and certain Arab states against the Syrian government. Syria has been experiencing unrest since mid-March 2011, with many people, including large number of security forces, killed in the turmoil. While the West and the Syrian opposition accuse the government of the killings, Damascus blames outlaws, saboteurs and insurgents for the unrest, insisting that it is being orchestrated from abroad.

Afghan beheadings could signal confusion in Taliban ranks

It was meant to be another night of music and dance, a brief distraction from life in the searing heat and dust of Afghanistan's conservative rural south for a small group of boys and girls in Helmand province's Roshan Abad village. Instead it ended in brutality that even the Taliban's austere leadership are unwilling to be linked with amid off-again, on-again peace moves and signs that grassroots insurgent fighters may not be in a mood for any compromise. All seventeen revelers - 15 boys and two girls - were shot or beheaded by their own villagers and insurgents enraged by their "immorality". "Inside the room there was only a smashed electric keyboard powered by a car battery, as well as a broken tabla (drum) and blood stains around the room," said district elder Juma Gul, who later visited the mud-walled compound where the slaughter unfolded. The central Taliban leadership is trying to improve the group's image in case it wants to push forward tentative reconciliation steps and perhaps even enter mainstream politics. But some militant units are hard to control, roaming the countryside and slaughtering those deemed immoral. In the West, the Taliban are seen as one tight movement with uniform policies. But nothing could be further from the truth in many parts of the country as NATO prepares to withdraw most of its combat troops by the end of 2014. The warning signs of a massacre in Roshan Abad, which raises fresh questions about leaders' grip on scattered fighters, had been there for days but went unheeded, perhaps in the confidence only youths seem to have in their invulnerability. Insurgents, who largely control the area where U.S. Marines have suffered heavy losses, had posted letters of warning - known as "night letters" because they are left under the cover of darkness - on the door of the village mosque only days before. Gul, in a story backed by other village witnesses, said the boys and girls had met days previously at a well, where women regularly fetch water, built decades ago by U.S. aid workers to water the arid land. But in an area known for its deep conservatism on relations between men and women, it was still unclear why the girls agreed to meet for three consecutive nights before their slaughter. Enraged family members of the two girls were among the attackers, villager Mohammad Gul told Reuters, backed by about five Taliban members from a nearby insurgent stronghold called Baghnai. "The boys in the house were armed and fought back, but the Taliban called in more fighters who arrived on motorbikes," said Gul, who is not related to the other villager by the same name. It is this that perhaps explains early reports of a clash between Taliban factions. Mohammad Gul said some of the revelers were shot in the chest, while survivors of the brief gunbattle were beheaded, including the two women, with the bodies dumped beside an irrigation canal. GENTLER FACE Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf denied the group was involved in a massacre that has provoked another bout of outrage at a time when the insurgency is keen to project a more moderate face. "The boys must have been drunk, fighting one another. We were not involved," Yousuf said on Monday. Reclusive Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, in an earlier message ahead of the Eid al-Fitr festival ending Ramadan fasting this month, urged fighters to "emphatically" avoid civilian deaths as a "religious obligation to observe". The message was in part aimed at presenting a gentler face as efforts continue to re-open peace talks which could foster a power-sharing deal, with Mullah Omar calling for an "all-Afghan" process that appeared to move away from earlier opposition to dealing with the Afghan government. "Judging from his words, the main strategic goal seems to remain the re-establishment of the Islamic Emirate, maybe in a somewhat more ‘pluralistic' way," said Afghanistan Analysts Network author Thomas Ruttig in a blog this week, referring to the Taliban regime that held power until 2001. Ruttig said two recent cases elsewhere in Afghanistan showed the Taliban were "trying to show their ‘real' position on justice and that they do care about the civilian population", by punishing rogue insurgents and criminals. But events like the July execution of a woman in central Afghanistan accused of adultery and now the gruesome killings in Helmand threaten to undo any small advances in the face of a deeply suspicious, if not hostile, public outside the insurgents' southern and eastern stronghold. Such incidents highlight the difficulty that Taliban leaders have in enforcing discipline across an estimated 20,000 fighters spread from Afghanistan to Pakistan, through hundreds of villages separated by both mountainous geography, poor phone networks and even worse roads. That is true also of Roshan Abad, where about 400 families live between Kajaki and Musa Qala districts in an area rarely patrolled by Afghan or foreign troops. If the Taliban cannot enforce demands to spare the lives of civilians, then the task of enforcing any peace pact that might emerge after most Western combat troops withdraw looks even more remote. "The Taliban are a loose movement, operating in small numbers and small groups, so it's difficult to say whether they receive or get messages from those higher-up or their Mullah Omar," said a senior Afghan intelligence official who declined to be identified. "Even when Mullah Omar tells them or orders them not to harm civilians, local commanders prefer punishment and value their Islamic duties rather than listen to him in matters of immorality."

Pakistan: ICRC activities to continue on reduced scale

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), following a thorough review of its activities undertaken after the April 2012 murder in Quetta of Khalil Rasjed Dale, an ICRC health programme manager, has reiterated its commitment to carry on with its work in Pakistan but on a reduced scale. "We are ready to continue helping people in need, such as the wounded and the physically disabled, provided working conditions for our staff are adequate," explained Paul Castella, head of the ICRC delegation in Islamabad. "In the coming weeks, we will coordinate with the Pakistani authorities the resumption of health services as conditions permit, in particular the re-opening of our surgical hospital in Peshawar, which closed down after the murder of our colleague," he added. The ICRC's partnership with the Pakistan Red Crescent Society and support for physical rehabilitation services, notably in Peshawar and Muzaffarabad, will continue, as will the assistance provided by the ICRC for families seeking to restore and maintain contact with Pakistanis detained abroad. The ICRC will also maintain logistics assets in the country to support its operations in Pakistan, Afghanistan and throughout the region. The ICRC has decided to terminate all other activities for people affected by the current situation in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. All visits to detainees in Pakistan will also stop. As a result, the organization's offices in Sindh province, where flood recovery work is now complete, and in Quetta are being closed. "Having worked in Pakistan for more than 60 years, we are aware that some of these decisions will affect vulnerable people in some areas," said Mr Castella. "But we need to take into account the challenges faced by our staff and adjust our activities accordingly." The ICRC has been working in Pakistan since 1947, providing health care, physical rehabilitation and other assistance for people affected by violence and natural disasters.

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s local breweries experience revival

The Express Tribune
With Lashker-e-Islam’s (LI) influence waning in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), the locally-brewed liquor business is experiencing a revival in the province. At their peak, LI banned the sale of locally-brewed liquor or tharra (moonshine) in Khyber Agency’s Bara bazaar – the largest traditional market in the region. The banned outfit fined drug dealers and brewery owners millions of rupees, and shut down shops selling local and foreign alcohol. According to Sheena Gul Afridi*, a Levies force constable in Bara, the local breweries shifted to Jamrud five years ago, away from LI controlled areas. “There are three famous brands of tharra in Khyber Agency. They sell it in plastic bags, sometimes placing a leaf inside the bag as a trademark,” he explained. The constable said the liquor was brewed from fruits and considered good for health. Barakat*, an Afghan national, owns a moonshine distillery in the Khyber Agency’s Ghundi area. He says his liquor is brewed from jaggery or gur, a sweet product made from concentrated sugar-cane juice. While a number of incidents of people dying after consuming moonshine have been reported over the past few years, Barakat denied his product being responsible for any fatalities, saying he had been in the business for 15 years. He admitted, however, that there were new distilleries which did not follow correct procedures while making moonshine. This, he said, resulted in a poisonous concoction which could blind and kill a person within hours. Most of the liquor produced in the Khyber Agency is smuggled to Peshawar. A plastic bag of tharra can be bought for as much as Rs300-800. A dealer in Peshawar’s Kharkhano market said that different colours and flavours could be added to it in order to make different varieties. “It is also sold in bottles of foreign liquor brands bought from Kabari bazaar,” he said. In Peshawar, tharra is mainly consumed by Christian and Hindu communities. Well known markets for the business are situated in areas mainly inhabited by Christians and Hindus. A representative of the Hindu community said that the former Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal government had cancelled all permits to sell liquor in the area, including that of Muree Brewery. “Members of the community were forced to look for other alternatives, such as tharra,” he said. Most of the deaths caused by improperly brewed moonshine occur in areas of the city where Hindus and Christians live. “The only way to eliminate moonshine is to allow legal and licensed alcoholic drinks to be sold,” he concluded.

PPP promoting culture of tolerance: Zardari

President distributed cheques‚ debit cards among women under BISP. Addressing on the occasion he said Benazir Income Support Programme is flagship programme for reducing poverty and empowering women. President Asif Ali Zardari says Benazir Income Support Programme is flagship programme for reducing poverty and empowering women. He was addressing Waseela-e-Haq draws and cheques distribution ceremony under Benazir Income Support Programme in Islamabad on Tuesday afternoon. The President said the programme has progressed and is becoming a comprehensive social safety net. He said it has attracted worldwide appreciation for its transparency‚ objectivity and efficiency. Asif Ali Zardari said the PPP believes in politics of reconciliation and it promoted the culture of tolerance and accommodation during the last four years. The President distributed cheques and Debit Cards among women under Benazir Income Support Programme. Chairperson of the programme Farzana Raja said seven million families are the beneficiaries of the programme. She said in collaboration with Polio teams‚ polio drops were administered to over one hundred and fifty thousand children in FATA. She said 1.5 million people have received Benazir Debit Cards.

Haqqani's apparent 'death' a message to Islamabad

Political experts say that the US is upping pressure on Pakistan to go after the militant Haqqani network. They say the 'death' of Badruddin Haqqani is a also a ‘message to Islamabad.’ Afghanistan said on Sunday that its intelligence sources had confirmed the death of Badruddin Haqqani - the son of the network's founder Jalaluddin Haqqani - in a recent US drone strike in Pakistan's tribal North Waziristan region. "The elimination of Badruddin Haqqani will deal a major blow and serious setback to the Haqqani network," Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi told the media. Shafiquallh Tahriri, spokesman for the Afghan spy agency, the National Directorate of Security, cited intelligence reports collected from Pakistan which confirmed that Haqqani was killed last week in a US drone raid. But the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban denied these claims. On Saturday, the Afghan Taliban said claims of Haqqani's death were part of Pakistani and American "propaganda." Maulvi Ahmed Jan, a Haqqani network commander, also said that Haqqani was alive. Haqqani's Pakistan connection The United States blames the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani network for launching attacks on international troops in Afghanistan from North Waziristan. Washington accuses the Haqqani network of sabotaging peace efforts in Afghanistan, and claims that the group is backed by the Pakistan spy agency, the Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI). Conrad Schetter, an Afghanistan expert at Bonn University's Center for Development Research, said the ties between the ISI and Haqqanis were strong. "ISI supported the Haqqani group in the 1980s in its fight against the Soviet Red Army in Afghanistan. The Haqqani network has proven to be a very loyal and reliable partner to ISI ever since. Today the Pakistani government supports the Haqqani Network so it can attain its goals in Afghanistan," Schetter told DW. Islamabad says it is in contact with the Haqqanis but that it does not support the group. Pakistani officials have repeatedly said that they are committed to fighting the international "war on terror." 'A major blow' Owais Tohid, a journalist in Karachi, told DW that if the reports about Haqqani's death were correct, it would certainly be a major blow to the Haqqani network. "People close to Badruddin Haqqani deny their leader's death, however, the local sources in North Waziristan have suggested that an important Haqqani leader has been killed," Tohid said. Tohid said the US wanted to convey a message to the Pakistani authorities that it would unilaterally go after the Haqqani militants ignoring Islamabad's official protests against the drone strikes on its soil. Tohid, however, said that there were signs that Pakistan was finally preparing to launch a military operation in North Waziristan against the Haqqanis. Pakistan's political and defense experts say the US drone strikes are very unpopular in Pakistan, and for that reason the Pakistani authorities think it would be better if they launch their own attack in North Waziristan rather than allowing the US to act unilaterally. Operation against the Haqqanis "There is going to be a military operation against the Haqqanis but it is not going to be a big-scale operation," said Tohid, adding that the Pakistani authorities also feared the backlash from the militants. Earlier this month, the Pakistani media reported that ISI chief Lieutenant General Zaheer ul-Islam finally succumbed to US pressure and agreed to launch a military attack against the Haqqani network. Observers say that the agreement was a result of numerous meetings between US and Pakistani officials, and was not easy to achieve. They added that Pakistani authorities, in particular the ISI, have been reluctant to fight the Haqqanis, whom they consider "strategic assets" for maintaining influence in Afghanistan. Defense expert Talat Masood told DW that the military operation was in the "best interest of all parties." "Pakistan had always maintained that it would launch a military operation against the Haqqanis at the right time," said Masood, adding that the time appeared ripe for such an operation.

Putin to visit Pakistan in October

Russian President Vladimir Putin
will visit Pakistan in October on the invitation of President Asif Ali Zardari, sources said on Monday. During the visit of President Putin, Pakistan would simultaneously host quadrilateral meeting of presidents of Russia, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Pakistan. “Date and schedule of the visit of Russian president is being worked out through the diplomatic channels”, sources told The Nation. Sources said Russia and Pakistan would discuss host of issues of bilateral interest to boost bilateral relations between the two countries. Regional issues including terrorism, extremism, security, trade and economic cooperation would also come under discussion between Pakistan and Russia. Sources were of the view that there are various specific bilateral proposals Islamabad and Moscow were working to sign a number of MoUs including expansion of Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM), Karachi and cooperation in oil and gas sector. President Asif Ali Zardari visited the Russian Federation from May 11–13 and held bilateral discussions on matters of bilateral interest. During these talks enhanced cooperation between the two countries for BMRE (Balancing, Modernization, Revamping and Expansion) and capacity expansion of PSM was agreed. Ministry of Production, Government of Pakistan and Ministry of Economic Development of Russian Federation were engaged to finalize modalities related to the BMRE and capacity expansion of PSM. Similarly, sources said that Islamabad and Moscow were also working proposals to enhance defence cooperation between the two countries.

Aitzaz sees no solution to govt-judiciary standoff

Aitzaz says he does not see any way‚ as both the sides are sticking to their respective stands. Aitzaz Ahsan, a prominent lawyer and PPP leader, has said the Supreme Court should accept that letter to the Swiss authorities will only be written when Asif Ali Zardari will no longer be the President. Talking to newsmen in Islamabad on Tuesday‚ he said the court should review its decision on the NRO Implementation case‚ as it has done in several other cases. Aitzaz Ahsan said Asif Ali Zardari is a constitutionally elected President and enjoys complete immunity under the constitution and international laws. He said no body can write letter against his own President. He said it has never happened that a country has presented its President before a foreign magistrate. To a question‚ Aitzaz Ahsan said he does not see any way‚ as both the sides are sticking to their respective stands. He said the court has no option‚ but to disqualify the Prime Minister he if does not write letter to Swiss authorities.

Thousands of Afghan refugees in limbo

Abdul Karim walked for nearly 12 hours to cross the border into Pakistan and escape the warlords who were raining rockets on his neighbourhood in Kabul. That was nearly two decades ago, when he was a teenager. Since then, he's gotten married and raised six children, all born in Pakistan. He is one of 1.7 million Afghan refugees who have been living in limbo in Pakistan for years as part of one of the world's largest and longest-running refugee crisis. But after 30 years of hosting Afghans, many Pakistanis are growing frustrated with the toll they say the refugee population is taking on their country, and pressure is mounting on the government to do something. The Pakistani government is now weighing whether to remove their refugee status, a step that would increase the pressure on them to go home. Most of the refugees can't fathom returning to Afghanistan any time soon. They may feel like outsiders in Pakistan, but they say their homeland is still too violent and desperately poor. "Unless the Pakistani government forced us back to Kabul, I am in no mood to go there," said Karim. "There is no safety… We have nothing left there." The Afghan population in Pakistan is the legacy of Afghanistan's repeated conflicts. Millions streamed across the border after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. After the Soviets pulled out, the country was torn apart by fighting between warlords, and more Afghans fled. When the Taliban rose to power in 1996 their rule further terrorised the population. The 1.7 million Afghans registered as refugees include those who remain from those exoduses and their children born since. More than a third of them live in camps, while the rest are scattered across Pakistan. Alongside them, another roughly 1 million Afghans are believed to be living in the country illegally. A combination of reasons keeps them from returning. There are the big concerns: Afghanistan's woeful economy, fears that its turmoil will only worsen when international forces leave at the end of 2014. And there are the equally weighty personal worries: Many parents worry their kids won't get a decent education in Afghanistan or, if they're girls, maybe no education at all. Others like Kowki Nazari have no prospect of finding a job in Afghanistan. She fled to Pakistan after her husband was imprisoned and tortured by the Taliban. She crossed the border by donkey in the dead of night and made her way to Rawalpindi, where she now works as a house cleaner. Like many people in this neighbourhood she is an ethnic Hazara, a minority group in Afghanistan. Most Hazaras are Shia and as such have often been targeted by the Taliban. If she returned to Afghanistan, she says her family would be destitute. "I can't work there because it's not like Pakistan where the women are free to work," she said. As the refugee crisis has dragged on, there is a sense in Pakistan that the Afghans have become a burden the country should no longer be required to carry. Generosity is turning to frustration and accusations that Afghans are responsible for crime and are undermining Pakistan's security. Therefore, the atmosphere has become more hostile. Earlier this summer, officials in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa threatened to evict thousands of undocumented Afghans. The deadline passed without an increase in deportations but worried aid groups and Afghans. Talking to The Associated Press, the secretary in charge of the States and Frontier Regions Ministry, which has primary responsibility for refugee issues, said the Pakistani government would not renew the refugee status cards for registered Afghans when they expire on Dec 31. Habibullah Khan said Pakistan would not forcibly evict anyone, but once the cards were revoked it would encourage people to return. The ultimate decision on whether to renew them will be made by the cabinet. Identity cards The ID card provides registered Afghan refugees with certain protections. The cards are used for everyday activities like banking or registering for school. Revoking them would potentially make Afghans much more susceptible to harassment by police. When asked whether it was safe for the Afghans to go home, Mr Khan said the situation in Pakistan was not ideal either. "Are these conditions exceptional to Afghanistan? If somebody asks me 'Oh, there are bomb threats in Kabul?' Then I would say 'Then what about Peshawar? What about Karachi? What about Balochistan?'" said Khan. He points out that every year tens of thousands of children are born to Afghan families in Pakistan, which often outweighs the number of people leaving. Another concern for the Pakistani government is that the number of Afghans returning home is slowing, said the head of the United Nations refugee agency in Pakistan, Neill Wright. Last year 52,096 Afghans were repatriated under a UN-run programme, according to UN figures. That was the second lowest number since the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. So far this year about 42,000 Afghans have returned. If the government does not renew the cards, Afghans could face more difficulty getting services and greater day-to-day troubles. Afghans complain that police stop them for their papers and if they don't have them, demand bribes not to detain them. However, Wright said that if the cards were not renewed by the Pakistani authorities, the Afghans would still be considered refugees by the UN. The agency could issue its own identity documentation but it's unclear how much weight those would carry in Pakistan.

Understanding Bugti’s Legacy

The Baloch Hal
The sixth anniversary of former Balochistan governor and chief minister Nawab Mohammad Akbar Bugti is being celebrated across Balochistan in the midst of calls for shutter down and wheel jam strikes. Every year, this day is marked amid extraordinary security arrangements. The admirers of the Nawab take out protest rallies not only to condemn the brutal killing but also vent their frustration over the federal government’s inability to punish those elements in the army and the federal government responsible for the killing of a formerly elected politician. Hence, August 26 has grown much bigger than a usual day on which a political figure is remembered and paid tribute by his supporters. For the Baloch, this day holds enormous significance. They view it as the day when trust between the Center and the province was breached and a frustrated autocratic regime proceeded with a military solution to a problem which could otherwise be resolved through political dialogue. Nawab Bugti’s legacy is far different from his original political career. A staunch federalist through most of his career, the Nawab has today emerged as the greatest icon of the Baloch liberation movement for statehood. Balochi language musicians sing the praises of his bravery and steadfastness, poets compose poetry on his heroism and vendors sell his large-size posters in the streets of Balochistan. It is ironic that neither the Baloch nationalists nor Islamabad could fully understand the Nawab’s politics. Both sides take extreme, and oftentimes unrealistic, positions while interpreting Bugti’s political life. For some, he is an unquestionable hero and for the rest he is known solely as a tyrant tribal chief who opposed development of his own area and tribesmen. Nobody is willing to admit that he was a human being like rest of us who made mistakes but also offered invaluable contributions to the society. For instance, policymakers in Islamabad tend to forget the part of the history when the Nawab was Pakistan’s loyal governor in Balochistan during a military operation in 1970s that brutally killed thousands of innocent Baloch people. He remained committed to Pakistani politics also by serving as the Chief Minister of the province in order to support the political process. There was no reason why a man so supportive of Pakistani policies in Balochistan should be killed so roughly at the age of seventy-nine. For the Baloch nationalists, it is unacceptable to concede that Nawab Bugti was actually never a part of the actual Baloch nationalistic troika (comprising of Sardar Khair Baksh Marri, Sardar Attaullah Mengal and Mir Ghaus Baksh Bizenjo). In his native Dera Bugti district, he would even cause problems for local students who wanted to open a chapter of the Baloch Students Organization (B.S.O.) He did not want to break Pakistan to create an independent Balochistan nor did he publicly champion such aspirations. He was not surrounded by such visionary nationalists who would dream of an independent Balochistan. In Balochistan, all four members of the Balochistan Assembly from the Nawab’s Jamori Watan Party (J.W.P) voted for Jam Mohammad Yousaf of the pro-Musharraf Pakistan Muslim League to become the chief minister of Balochistan. J.W.P.’s ideological foundations were so shallow that none of its member of the provincial assembly (M.P.A.) resigned against the Nawab’s killing. Instead, his son-in-law and the Party’s secretary general, Agha Shahid Bugti, continued to retain his Senate seat until 2012 while the Nawab’s official spokesman and the J.W.P. secretary information Amanullah Kanrani got so close to the ruling establishment that he was eventually promoted as Balochistan’s current Advocate General. In 2004, the Nawab continued to support the parliamentary committee on Balochistan headed by Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed. The Nawab delightedly agreed to negotiate with the then caretaker prime minister Chaudhary Shujaat Hussain and Mushahid Hussain Syed to figure out a peaceful solution to the Balochistan conflict. At one point, he expressed so much confidence in the Committee that he nominated three non-Baloch people, columnists Ayaz Amir, (late) Irshad Ahmed Haqqani and Mushahid Hussain Syed, ‘to make whatever decision they think was best in the interest of Balochistan.’ By that time, the Four-Party Baloch National Alliance (Comprising of the Jamori Watan Party, Balochistan National Party, the National Party and the Haq-e-Tawar Party), treated the Nawab as the undisputed negotiator of the Baloch people and they did not object to his proposal. General Musharraf, on his part, did not encourage or facilitate a political approach toward the problem and ordered Bugti’s killing. Islamabad did not officially regret killing Bugti. The Nawab’s dead body was further humiliated as it was handed over to his tribal opponents rather than his family. The Nawab’s family was not allowed to attend his funeral nor has the family still been allowed to visit Dera Bugti to pay respects on the grave of the Baloch leader even six years after the killing. General Musharraf has blatantly defended the operation against Bugti say “it was 500% justified”. The government has been consistently lying about the circumstances that led to Bugti’s killing. There is inconsistency and inaccuracy in the official account of what actually happened on August 26. For example, on March 14, 2012, General Musharraf claimed in an interview with DawnNews that Bugti “was not killed but instead had committed suicide”. Surprisingly, General Musharraf contradicted himself in his Understanding Balochistan (Part – I) op-ed he wrote for the News International on exactly the same day he had spoken to DawnNews. The General said Bugti had actually died because of a cave collapse. Both of the statements are not convincing. The District Coordination Officer (D.C.O.) of Dera Bugti Abdul Samaad Lasi had publicly displayed Nawab Bugti’s eyeglasses. After all, it is impossible for eyeglasses to remain intact after the collapse of a cave, argue the Nawab’s supporters. The government has not brought forward public evidence of how the Nawab was killed six years after the tragedy struck. Given Islamabad’s lackluster attitude, it is hard to believe that many in the policy world of the federal capital truly care how and why Bugti was killed. The Pakistan People’s Party does not want to publicly admit that it is not interested in investigating the Nawab’s killing but its behavior evidently indicates that the PPP has no intention to punish those who killed the veteran Baloch leader. While the P.P.P. allowed General Musharraf to leave Pakistan with official guard of honor, it has also rewarded the former chief minister of the province, Jam Mohammad Yousaf, by appointing him as a federal minister. Musharraf and Mr. Yousaf are both actually wanted by Pakistani courts for killing Bugti. The Bugti murder case is indeed Balochistan’s collective case. The federal government should understand the sentiments of the people of Balochistan. If justice is dispensed in the Nawab’s case, people’s faith in the government will significantly increase. They will consider it as (the beginning of) justice for the rest of the entire province. Denial of justice to a highly powerful politician, tribal chief and former chief minister promotes pessimism and hopelessness among the rest of the population. For the people of Balochistan, the Nawab leaves a legacy of struggle for one’s rights no matter what it takes to achieve them.

Afghan Women Fight For Place On Cricket Pitch

They have no official funding, they have to clear the weeds off their own playing field, and their wicket is made of bricks instead of wood, but the Afghan national women's cricket team is ready to play.


The stand off between the PPP Government and the Supreme Court had been postponed for three weeks asking the Prime Minister to nominate a person to write a letter to the Swiss authorities for reopening the closed corruption cases against Shaheed Benazir Bhutto and Mr. Asif Ali Zardari. The PPP stand is very clear that the PPP-led Government will never insult Shaheed Benazir Bhutto and President Asif Zardari and reopening of the corruption cases against them is out of question and only naïve people can think that the PPP leadership will ever oblige the Supreme Court and its Judges with fixed notions. PPP is a mass political party and the biggest in this country enjoying immense goodwill in the international community for decades and this should be taken into account while taking any decision against the PPP. Sensing danger, the PPP leaders are expressing their public anger and addressing the public opinion to protest against the PPP specific bias of the judiciary. Mass public opinion is within the reach of the PPP while the Judges of the superior courts lacked this advantage in case of confrontation. The PPP leaders at the lower ranks can play havoc with the image and prestige of the Supreme Court and its judges if they refer the matter to the broad masses in all parts of the country. The Judiciary should avoid this situation. It is natural that the PPP will fight back and will not give a walk over to the judiciary if it crossed all limits and bent upon to topple another PPP Government on the same issue. PPP and its leaders had complained that the Supreme Court had picked up the PPP specific cases just to put pressure on the party and it’s Government for political reasons. They complained that there was always an unholy alliance between the judiciary and the Army against the PPP and other democratic forces in the past as PPP is considered as a non-conformist party by the establishment and its leader—President Asif Ali Zardari—as an ‘unwanted’ personality. Even Shaheed Benazir Bhutto was declared as a security risk as the elected Prime Minister of Pakistan. The judiciary will have to clear this impression, right of wrong, to retain its good image among the people of Pakistan. There is no doubt that the judiciary played a dirty role in the past and joined the military dictators, despots and autocrats in trampling down the democratic rights of the people. The judiciary allowed Asif Ali Zardari to remain in jail for a decade on concocted charges and some of the top judges refused to hear the petitions of Zardari as it would have annoyed and offended the military dictators and civilian despots who wanted to keep Zardari behind the bar in his entire life. The Judiciary can not forward an example providing any relief to the political opponents of the despotic Governments in the past and the Baloch leaders remained in jail for decades without formal charges. The confrontation between the judiciary and the Executive is not in the interest of the people with the uncertain security situation around Pakistan. We hope that both sides will seriously review their respective positions and avoid any confrontation on the Swiss cases or other PPP specific cases. We have earlier suggested that the politically motivated corruption cases should be left for future elected Government to deal with when President Asif Ali Zardari becomes an ordinary citizen. Hearing of the cases should be adjourned till fresh elections are held and new Government is formed. The naïve leaders from Punjab should stop backing the unjust stand of the judiciary against the President of Pakistan allowing him to complete his constitutional tenure. It is in the interests of the people that there should be an instant détente in relations between the PPP and the judiciary otherwise the situation will take the country to a complete disaster.

Pakistan: Prime Minister in court

EDITORIAL :Daily Times
Prime Minister (PM) Raja Pervez Ashraf accompanied by PPP leaders and coalition partners appeared before the Supreme Court (SC) in response to a notice issued to him in the NRO implementation case. The hearing that lasted for 60 minutes ended with the PM given three weeks time to consider writing that letter to the Swiss authorities to reopen the graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari. The atmosphere in Court Room 2 where the PM presented himself before the five-member bench of the SC hearing the case remained sober and calm. Exercising restraint, both the judiciary and the executive not only showed respect to each other but also agreed to try and find a middle way out of this quandary. The PM had initially sought four to six weeks time to acquaint himself with the legal aspects of the case. Partially granting his request, the court postponed the case until September 18. The government’s respectful and restrained demeanour towards the judiciary has removed the fear of a constitutional deadlock that might have been costly for the government and the democratic system. The PM’s appearance in court had been heavily debated within the PPP leadership and among the coalition partners in the Presidency right till Sunday night. A majority of the ruling coalition wanted the PM to avoid the hearing, including the former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, but President Zardari and the Law Minister Farooq H Naek saw wisdom in the PM’s appearance in court in order to try and find a ‘middle’ way solution. Towards this end, there is speculation that the government might consider writing a letter to the Swiss authorities seeking their stance on the presidential immunity issue, which may go in favour of the government since the Swiss authorities have repeatedly said, including on our media, that the president enjoys immunity under our, Swiss and international law, and in any case a closed case could not be reopened under Swiss law without substantive new evidence, which is not to be had for love or money. A detailed reply from the Swiss authorities along these lines may restrict the SC from proceeding any further in this case, hence bringing the NRO saga to conclusion. Another speculation doing the rounds is that the case is by now time-barred since the limit for reopening the case expired on August 22. However, legal opinion is divided over this expiry issue, since Article 97(b) of the Criminal Procedure Code of Switzerland could lend itself to various interpretations, including a 15-year limit that would not expire till September 2012. Only time will tell what eventual course the government and the judiciary will take to bring the country out of an impasse that is neither doing any good to an embattled country nor setting a healthy precedent for the future. Sending a PM home was not a small thing, especially for a country that has gained its democratic footing after a long, tough and persistent struggle, losing some of its finest leaders in the process. No more is the NRO implementation case seen as a purely legal matter. Even in legal circles hitherto supporting the judiciary to the hilt, opinion is veering towards criticism of the judiciary’s ‘activism’ and judicial restraint is being advised. This is doing little for the stature, respect and dignity of the judiciary. The worst case scenario could have led to anti-democratic forces taking advantage of the situation but the maturity shown by the government and increasingly the restraint creeping into the SC bench’s approach raises hopes that both sides will indeed seek a middle path that does not damage the reputation and standing of either while bringing relief to an already tense and crisis-ridden country.

Humanitarian needs of IDPs largely remain unmet

The humanitarian needs of the vulnerable internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Khyber Agency are largely unmet, as they continue to battle the heat, increasing prices of basic commodities and cramped living conditions. The Situation Report on Condition of IDPs released by Save the Children shows that since January 2012, the registered caseload from Khyber Agency stands at 68,274 families, of which 9,263 families are accommodated in Jalozai camp and the remaining 59,011 families reside in the host communities. As of August 2, 2012, the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) and UNHCR report the overall IDP population of in camp and off camp displaced since 2009 (including the registered caseload from the new IDP influx from Khyber Agency) at 159,595 families, an overall increase of 1,614 families during the past two weeks. Power outages of 16-20 hours daily in most areas continue to add to their troubles as they survive without electricity. There is growing concern due to the recent food shortages that resulted in World Food Programme announcing that the size of the food baskets given as part of their food distribution initiatives will decrease. As access to basic services and facilities continue to be a challenge for the many vulnerable families who have been displaced.

Pakistani Christian girl accused of blasphemy ruled minor

The lawyer for a Pakistani Christian girl accused of blasphemy said a medical review had determined that the girl was a minor. Tahir Naveed Chaudhry said a report by a medical board investigating the age and mental state of the girl determined she was between 13 and 14. Chaudhry said that meant that her case would be heard under Pakistan’s juvenile court system, which was generally more lenient toward defendants. The lawyer also said on Tuesday that the board determined that her mental state did not correspond to her age. It was not clear whether that meant she was mentally impaired. The girl was accused by a neighbor of burning pages containing verses form the Holy Quran.

Zardari seeks greater market access for Pak products

The president has urged international community to give greater market access to Pakistani products.
Addressing annual dinner of All Pakistan Textile Mills Association in Islamabad‚ President Asif Ali Zardari said that it was time for international community to think of ways to compensate the countries adversely affected by war on terror. He said the ongoing fight against militancy has inflicted huge damage to Pakistan s economy. Zardari said Pakistan is entitled to preferential treatment and greater market access due to its sacrifices in the war against terror. He asked the business community to give their input for economic development to political parties preparing manifesto for next general elections. Lauding twenty-five billion dollars export target by the textile sector he said that there is a potential for one hundred billion dollars. The president acknowledged that there was need to provide enabling environment for growth of the sector and agreed that the interest rate should be brought further down to give boost to the industry. He proposed floating of special textile bonds to provide soft money to textile sector for its development. The president urged exporters to look for other markets to given a meaningful boost to the country s exports.